confronts himself in front of his
audience to elicit a phenomenology
of theatre making
"phenomenological" approach to theatre making has a number
of advantages. It provides direct access to the essential ingredient
of audience connection to key elements in a work immediately.
The recent Short
and Sweet Festival provided an ideal opportunity to work
from within the character's very being while directly interacting
with a real live audience with a defined role to play.
performed a short play in a bathtub. The role of Trinculo emerged
from my newsletter. Living in a street called Trinculo Place added to
the creation of an alter-ego that grew from a jester in Shakespeare's The
I used Trinculo as an irreverent shadow-self who could be both
physical and metaphorical. One of his long rants written for the
purpose of the newsletter, became a central speech in my play, GEESE.
It attempted to distill some of the key aspects of Antonin Artaud's
attitude to words and the very nature of theatre as a gravitation
utilizing dreams. Trinculo bridged the basis of linear narrative with
an articulation going to the imprecision of language to fully express
meaning. The text indicated how all meaning through language was
negotiated meaning and precision is a delusion. Trinculo was not a
character in GEESE, but the lines were spoken by a Trinculo-like
figure played brilliantly by Braiden Dunn.
featured are Jack Spahr, Anna Voronoff,
McGregor, Hannah Cormick and
Carolyn Minchin with
Jessica Fairbairn in the background as an artist
accept that language is fluid and contextual, then we need to be
careful as writers of theatre that we consider the
multi-dimensionality of its presentation. Film maker, Terence
Malick, and theatre maker, Robert
Wilson, link visual, sound and sculpture with language in such a
way to fully challenge any stereotype one might hold in relation to
whatever subject they are exploring. Ironically, both men were born
only two years apart in Waco, Texas; a place less renowned for
artistic expression and imaginative thinking! Perhaps Waco was a
necessary pre-condition for their artistry.
Barba quotes Arthur
Koestler in suggesting that a pre-condition for creating
anything of artistic value is a stripping away of learned and applied
values, perceptions and understandings so that a more primitive
personal regression can be discovered as a starting point. Such
thinking nullifies the validity of the "how to" book on
stage writing, directing and acting. No such "how to" is
possible as it can only lead to what has already been done in a
refined kind of way that needs undermining and subverting. Such
writings at best can serve as interesting possible scenarios for
approaching creative work. But that is all! Prescription is deadly.
based art is by such definition DEADLY!
of elements that contribute to the creation of theatre and film does
not in any way suggest a blueprint or template for success. While it
might be argued that without such knowledge, there is no
understanding of the art form; it must further be argued that such
knowledge is NOT sufficient for any creation.
be a truism; except that institutions and theatre programs aimed at
stimulated creative and artistic expression adopt practices that seem
to assume that up-skilling in knowledge of the elements is the way to
improve and increase the artistic output of communities and
individuals. In effect, such methodologies enforce the blanding out
of artistic industry. The rough, the imperfect, the personal
imagination is left gutted and bled of its possibilities and potentiality.
alternative approach is through phenomenology. The world English
Dictionary defines it as a branch of philosophy that:
on the detailed description of conscious experience, without
recourse to explanation, metaphysical assumptions, and traditional
similar to the John Keats idea of "negative capability":
of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable
reaching after fact and reason -"
phenomenological approach to theatre making must utilize all the
frustrating and messy fluidity that comes with experience. But in
this case it is a particular kind of experience.
a phenomenological bathtub
Bathtub was scheduled as a ten minute performance as part of the
Short and Sweet Festival in Canberra. Initially, the plan was to
adapt one or two of the Trinculo rants from Trinculo's Shadow Newsletter
into a play. It became obvious that it wasn't working. I then set
about performing each night with a different focus. It wasn't simply
an improvisation. Trinculo had been working up a considerable
back-story; a story focused on philosophical/political and physical
scenarios and concerns.
was concocted to open up the performance to audience interaction. A
brief statement was provided on a pamphlett and distributed to
audiences before the show in the foyer. They were asked to write down
a question as they were invited to be in attendance with Trinculo in
a bathtub; just as revolutionaries visited Marat who met them while
in a bathtub during the French Revolution. At a point in the
performance, Trinculo would ask for the collector of the questions to
bring them to him.
preview night, the focus was simply on the audience reaction to a guy
with wings sitting in a bathtub on stage. On the official opening
night, the focus was on politics and some more controversial aspects.
On the second night it was on philosophical / religious issues. On
the third night, the focus was on Marat, the revolutionary. The final
night of the initial season, focused on a strange "love"
story between Trinculo and an imaginary Charlotte Corday who would
come to kill him. This was bizarre; but worked best of all and gained
the play a place in the final to be performed on the Saturday. Over
the week, I was able to tease out where the play was forming best
with its audience.
different focus each night utilized De Bono's concept of the "provocative
operant" or PO to structure the balance between
improvisation and the dropping into set pieces of text. De Bono
suggests random provocations when applied to a focus area will
provide the essential ingredient to break through arrogant tunnel
vision. It will open new areas that were previously unknown. And most
importantly, it will challenge one's own narrow experience.
a bathtub and splashing water about, I needed to increase my stress
levels to the point where I had to react and find a way to connect
with the hundred or so members of the audience who had paid for a
serious and rehearsed piece of theatre. This could not be done in a
safe rehearsal room. Nor could it be done in front of a computer.
Integrating my own experience of sitting in a bath each night in
front of my audience allowed me to discover how my own acting and
writing skills might be applied to discover a significant plot line
that seemed to find the numinous relationship with an audience. And
what I found could not have been devised in isolation.
beginning of the performance, Trinculo opened with:
seek the perfect question; the one with an impossible answer."
He aimed to
finish on the line:
I can die."
eventual seven performances, a surreal and absurdist play emerged
from the testing and experimenting with balances and emphasis. To do
this, I had to become Trinculo and believe how significant and
essential was every moment. I had to fret when the audience seemed
distant. I had to share with them my joy as they became energetic
with him. I had to gain a heightened sensitivity to their every
nuance. To achieve this, required a minimum of two hours in the space
and working at my preparation. I had to assume a connection between
their questions and Trinculo's own predisposition. The Opening Night
and night 3 were the most difficult. On the Opening Night, I became
aware of the bath leaking through the plug and on to the stage. I had
to keep my foot on the plug to keep it in place. This distracted me
no end and caused my performance to be strained and unnecessarily
strident. The plug was siliconed tight for the following
performances. By the final performance, I found a play.
literal fluidity of the process has served as a metaphorical basis
for understanding my own possibilities for creating new and fresher
works. It is nothing new. But it does reinforce the need for newness
and challenge in the artistic process. I prefer to think of it as a
phenomenological approach; even if I have to offer apologies to Husserl,
Artaud et al. By switching the object of my attention from my
pre-defined and pre-determined script on to the audience and to
interaction between the audience and the bathtub, I was able to test
out and change my creative response and then seek a new object; this
new object being a new play!
process relied more on negation of self and my own ideas than on any
positive attitude I had towards the character and its possibilities.
And it had virtually nothing to do with shaping work to fit a
particular form; other than the form imposed by a man with feathers
on his back in a bathtub. What becomes of Trinculo is anyone's guess.
I suspect I am more interested in creating something based on the
little play that fermented over that week. I only hope I can
keep him fresh and open to engagement in whatever capacity Trinculo
finds himself. Shakespeare's original Trinculo from The Tempest
was never one of Shakespeare's stronger or refined characters.
Perhaps my Trinculo is closer to the satellite circling Uranus. He is
difficult to see and understand; and is constantly in need of rediscovering.
taking a bath and working it all out. First appearance was
in August 2012.
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